The James Beard Foundation has dropped its list of Restaurant and Chef semifinalists for 2022, the 32nd year of the awards. This year’s awards come after a few years of bizarre, unfortunate revelations and decisions signaling a much-needed change for the iconic institution.
Northern California and the Bay can be proud: this year, 10 Northern California chefs were longlisted for Best Chef, whereas in 2019 and 2018 just nine made the list. Only three women were on that list, however, though Bay Area favorite Reem Assil was the only NorCal nominee for Outstanding Chef. Richmond District bakers and owners of Breadbelly Clement Hsu, Katherine Campecino-Wong, and James Wong were the only NorCal bakers to appear on the list for best baker. Willy Ng — the legendary owner of Koi Palace, Dragon Beaux, and Palette Tea House — was the only NorCal in the list for Outstanding Restaurateur, too.
Since last year’s awards debacle, the foundation has strived to answer for much more than a simple list of the restaurants and chefs they’ve liked since the 2020 awards. After stalling and then canceling the 2020 and 2021 awards, the foundation conducted an audit in tandem with an outside firm and published a 21-page report of its findings, primarily comprised of optimism and hand-wringing to its website. The foundation’s chief hopes for the audit were centered on finding ways to avoid praising problematic and harmful members of the industry and ensure inclusivity and diversity in its nominations. By 2023, the foundation aims to have a committee and judges comprised of at least 50 percent BIPOC identifying people, the audit wrote, and “scouts,” a new strategy for selecting entrants tailored to helping the awards better reflect restaurants outside the white tablecloth world.
This year, to designate nominees, an independent volunteer group of more than 250 panelists around the country reviewed entries to the awards. Then, more than 600 judges around the country produced and voted on a nominating ballot listing the semifinalists in each of the 21 Restaurant and Chef Award categories.
Here are the Bay Area semifinalists. Head here for the full list.
- Willy Ng, Koi Palace, Dragon Beaux, and Palette Tea House, San Francisco
- Reem Assil, Reem’s, Oakland and San Francisco
- Paragary’s, Sacramento
- Crystal Wahpepah, Wahpepah’s Kitchen, Oakland
- David Yoshimura, Nisei, San Francisco
Best New Restaurant
- Abaca, San Francisco
- Horn BBQ, Oakland
- Clement Hsu, Katherine Campecino-Wong, and James Wong, Breadbelly, San Francisco
- House of Prime Rib, San Francisco
Outstanding Wine Program
- The Punchdown, Oakland
Outstanding Bar Program
- Friends and Family, Oakland
Best Chef: California
- Chris Barnum-Dann, Localis, Sacramento
- Sylvan Mishima Brackett, Rintaro, San Francisco
- Val M. Cantu, Californios, San Francisco
- Srijith Gopinathan, Ettan, Palo Alt
- Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
- Heena Patel, Besharam, San Francisco
- Melissa Perello, Octavia, San Francisco
- James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland
- Pim Techamuanvivit, Nari, San Francisco
- Matthew Kammerer, The Harbor House Inn, Elk